Friday, 18 February 2000
The Elephant's Tusk, Feb 18, 2000
by Rosemary Johns
La Mama at Courthouse until March 4, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
The art of story-telling is a subtle and complex one and the creation of a new morality tale is not an easy task.
In The Elephant's Tusk, writer Rosemary Johns attempts to create a morality tale about love. The outcome is uneven.
The story is set in India. Julie (Helen Doig) and Sara, (Natalie Carr) two young, single Australian women, are on a journey not only to discover the beauty of India. They are searching for the answers to profound questions about their life choices and their futures.
In the inimitable fashion of Westerners clinging blindly to Eastern philosophy and culture, they seek the solutions to their problems from visions, temples, spinning crystals and, finally, from a fortuneteller or diviner.
The Diviner creates visions of the women's lives at home in the future as well as telling a story of a young Muslim man (Sunil Daniel) who falls in love with an Australian girl. There is some lesson to be learned from this tale. Perhaps that true love always prevails in spite of family differences and other insurmountable obstacles.
Of course, the stories juxtaposed against this are those of Sara's ill-fated love for two married men. She seeks a father figure, a protector, a romantic older man. She learns that she does not really love Stan, her lecturer, (Mark Oddie). How she comes to this moment of revelation is unclear. There has been no real journey for her or for her friend.
Julie is pushy, frustrated and despairing about being overweight and never being in love. Sara is naive, unrealistic and attracted to married men. The two characters never really come to life because the characterisations are shallow and sketchy.
The thin text is unaided by clumsy direction (Jools Gardiner) and some unconvincing performances .The strongest performance is from Alex Pinder as Ganesha's Mouse. He narrates the very confused story with panache and plays very capably a series of other roles, including the Diviner.
The Courthouse is a cavernous space that needs closing down with light or set. The design by Peter Mumford (is an interesting monument to Ganesha but it does not serve the play. The actors rattle around uncomfortably in the space.
This script lacks layers of meaning and complexity of character to make it work as theatre.
by Kate Herbert